The Sting of Death

The Sting of Death
Today, we will bury my grandmother. It is a bitter-sweet day. For the past few years, she suffered with dementia and watching her mind slowly debilitate has been extremely painful. A woman who once traveled with my grandfather ministering across the world now being confined to a nursing home bed was almost more than I could bear.
At many funerals, there is a verse that is repeatedly shared to try and comfort those grieving.
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). I have always struggled with this verse. Often it was explained that because our loved ones were in heaven, there was no need to feel grief. Their death should not “sting” those of us still alive because they were in a better place. The problem was, it did sting. Their death did leave feelings of pain and loss. And I couldn’t comprehend how Paul could write such a verse. As I sat watching my grandmother slowly dying in her hospital bed, the verse continued to haunt my mind. Was I not supposed to feel heartache? Was my sorrow somehow a sign of my lack of faith?
Day after day the verse would run through my thoughts. Finally, I gave in and found the verse in my Bible. In researching the verse, I discovered that the Greek word for “sting” is “kentron”. Another definition for the word “kentron” is “goad”. A goad was a sharp iron rod used to prod cattle or oxen if they resisted during farming. Today, we would call it a cattle prod.
The imagery of a death’s prodding us as a “beast of burden” is significant. Whether or not we realize it, we are constantly being pushed toward the eternal. It is our own selfish and sinful desires that are painfully driving us. The scripture says, The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56). Sin and the temptation of sin are provoking us…motivating us to move on the path of death. People often wonder why they can’t break away from their sinful desires. It is because we are helpless to fight against it on our own. Like the imprisoned oxen being prodded to plow the field, we are urged as slaves to sin.
In our own strength, we are incapable to fight back against the sharp pricking of sin. But the scripture gives us the hope that we need. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Our freedom from the slave masters of sin and death are found through Jesus Christ. Our rejoicing is not in the death of a loved one, but in the fact that the power of sin has been defeated. Our mortal bodies will die, but the grace of our Lord brings true victory!
There is a sting connected to death. The grief we feel in the loss of someone is real, but we can rejoice in the fact that their lives made a difference for the kingdom of God. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Because of the blood of Jesus, we are free from sin and our work on the earth brings glory to the Lord. Death and sin no longer prod us forward to eternal damnation, but our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ leads us to our eternal reward!

Leave a Reply